How Restaurant Technologies Drive Innovation
Go to any chain grocery, and you can see aisle after aisle of consumables available irrespective of season, from strawberries in the heart of the winter to sweet potatoes in the summer. Those conveniences are the fruit of generations of efforts that range from developing irrigation or preservatives to more recent technology like refrigeration or the microwave. Restaurant technologies drive innovation now as ever before, becoming increasingly sophisticated to reinvent the idea of freshness while enhancing the guest experience.
Modern tech is about speed and convenience, storing and accessing reams of data, more often than not with machine learning or through data mining. With Moore’s Law, Intel founder Gordon Moore states that every two years, processing speeds double. In the restaurant that means the ability to predict future needs through statistical models using business intelligence tools, a means to remotely view multiple locations, as well as ways to reduce wait and hold times.
The History of Food Technologies
By the time that the first restaurant opened approximately 250 years ago, there were already a variety of available innovations for operators to use, many of which we now take for granted. For example, while you may not think of fire as technology as one of the earliest developments in humanity, it led to our first reconsideration of how and when we consume our food.
With the spread of humanity, settlers had to utilize critical thinking for food. There is evidence of irrigation projects dating back nearly eight millennia, with the first significant construction occurring in 3100 BC, Egypt. Innovations came much quicker as time with on, including grain mills, fermentation, and sterilization, to name a few.
By the industrial age, ideas like ovens and refrigeration became feasible, with the end of the 20th century leading to innovations like the microwave oven. When coupled with advancements in electricity and telecommunications, these technologies have quickly integrated with one another, streamlining not only food, but how that food is prepared, stored, and delivered to you, either off-premise or at the restaurant table as a guest.
How Restaurant Technology Innovates How You Eat
Beyond the most necessary of innovations like fire, preservatives, and antiseptics for safety, restaurant technologies exist parallel to social change. The industrial revolution brought along with it the birth of the middle class, people with enough disposable income to afford to eat in a restaurant, and gave way to the 40 hour work week with weekends off. Guests had more free time and money, giving rise to the quick service restaurant, which developed the concept of “fast food.”
Food production in the kitchen borrowed from the philosophies of Henry Ford, whose assembly line process helped modularize the process of production. Those methods have found and still hold a place in kitchens, which now make use of kitchen display systems to separate food preparation by station. Coupled with telecommunications and the drive-thru as we now know it was born.
Farmers have used technology to develop leaner more efficient means of raising crops and meat, making for an abundance of food year round. Companies ranging from McDonald’s to Impossible Foods have capitalized on these means of production to create easily reproducible meals that are engineered to remain consistent no matter where or when you grab a bite.
How Restaurants Technology Innovates What you Eat
Chances are, the food that you eat is a result of technological intervention. Modern kitchens engineer their menu around ingredients that may or may not have received genetic manipulation, or to provide meatless alternatives for health, environment, or otherwise concerned consumers. It’s through these choices that restaurants shape your order.
Operators can use business intelligence tools to provide the kind of historical data that helps shape menus. Restaurateurs now can collect and collate that data to help streamline sales for specific times of the day. For example, you may employ a variety of options to increase your lunch sales, including geo-fencing, enhancing off-premise dining opportunities, and a menu design that is quick and efficient to deliver to consumer pinched for time.
Some restaurant technologies go so far as to literally develop the food —not just the recipe, but the food itself– ushering in a new age of consumer choice. That includes restaurants that utilize lab-grown meats, or that use tools like CRISPR to modify your food for healthier alternatives with all the same taste.
How restaurant technology continues to innovate
Modern restaurant technologies utilize wireless signals for front-to-back-of-house communication, including order prep and delivery, and business intelligence. It’s through these integrations that new methods of data mining, business, and artificial intelligence, and machine learning flourish.
With population growth and environmental concerns on the horizon, staying innovative is critical not only to putting food on the table, but in keeping your restaurant profitable. While a reported 32% of restaurants lag in employing technology, companies like McDonald’s are leading the charge, investing millions into tech start-ups so that they can stay ahead of the curve.
The future of restaurant technologies is rich with opportunity. New advancements in blockchain promise less food waste. Research into microbiomic diets may provide fresh food for thought that chefs and operators can use in their menu engineering. Robotic assistants can increase productivity and reduce staffing costs, and they are coming. Lab-grown meat will offer healthy and environmentally considerate options to a new generation of patrons.
These are just ideas today. Can you imagine tomorrow?
How we prepare, store, and serve food has been at the crux of many critical historical innovations, part of a longer dialogue between science and the kitchen that continues to carry us forward. Modern advancements have given us new types of foods to eat and ways to safeguard the sanctity of our consumables and may pave the way to a brighter future.
Restaurant technologies are there to make it easier for everyone involved, the customer and staff. Quick service restaurants, for example, benefit from improving their digital menu and ordering options, with an average gain of 20% or more. Embracing change has historically proven challenging, but staying flexible, adaptable, and receptive to new technologies will only serve to enhance the customer experience while streamlining the efficiency of your operation, and increasing your bottom line.
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About the Author
Syd is a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot.